Special Report: Travel companies call on trusted formulas for turn-of-year TV advertisements

Digital Drums chief executive Steve Dunne assesses messaging, targeting and inspiration of peak campaigns

It’s been a major challenge for travel marketers and creatives over the years: how do you differentiate your product or service from that of others who sell similar products to the same audiences?

When everyone is selling sun, sea, relaxation and cultural experiences, and the props you have to work with – palm trees, beaches, pools, hammocks and cocktails – are the same as every other travel brand, it can call on all the creativity and marketing cunning a brand can muster to stand out from the crowd.

How travel brands go about meeting these challenges varies. Some prefer to emphasise low deposits, free child places or substantial discounts, while others opt to emphasise experiences or self-indulgence.

Increasingly, many travel brands, such as Kuoni and Visit Jersey, are favouring a more multi-platform approach that involves social media platforms like YouTube, digital, radio, out-of-home advertising and even podcasts rather than the traditional television and print.

However, many are still showing great trust in television and, as in previous years, this year’s crop of turn-of-year campaigns has been a mixed bag of creative approaches and product offerings, all striving to make their brand stand out from the crowd. And as we see every year, some are winners and some are also-rans.

MoreITV and Travel Weekly matched marketing fund increased to £1m

Jet2holidays: ‘Nothing beats a Jet2holiday’


In terms of the creative content of its advertising campaigns, Jet2 has, over the years, become a sort of Coca-Cola of the travel industry.

The soft drinks brand has never flinched from using its standard “Holidays Are Coming” advert that, in so many homes across the UK, is the signal for the start of Christmas. It has also remained loyal to the creative in the face of aggressive competition from the likes of M&S and John Lewis, brands keen to own the space the soft drinks company occupies in seasonal advertising. In much the same way, Jet2 has stuck to its creative guns with its latest offering.

In this year’s advertisement, which is actually three different adverts tailored to target young couples, couples and families, the brand once again sticks with the Jess Glynne Hold My Hand song and its tagline “I’m ready for this”. After a turbulent 2022, you can almost imagine viewers in their front rooms across the country nodding their heads in agreement with that sentiment.

From a marketer’s point of view, the advertisements are perfectly constructed, with strong branding, bright and vibrant colours, clear messaging and, most vital of all, compelling calls to action. Like Coca-Cola, Jet2 is definitely owning this area of travel sector marketing for this time of year.

Barrhead Travel: ‘The Massive Holiday Sale at Barrhead Travel’


It’s always good to see a traditional travel agency brand advertising on television and Barrhead Travel’s turn-of-year campaign is a strong effort that will undoubtedly catch the attention of sofa-seated consumers.

At first sight, Barrhead’s advertisement looks like any other standard holiday sector TV offering, with clip after clip of sun, sea, sand and high-octane activities.

However, creativity and direction lift the Barrhead advert and make it stand out from the competition through its use of one of the ‘marketing laws’ for beating habituation – contrast.

The collection of images of holiday destinations and activities strung together in an alternating sequence – from highly active scenes to ‘just chilling’ scenes, and from the rousing music bed of Bizet’s Carmen Suite No 1 to quiet sea breezes and sounds of nature – is incredibly effective in demonstrating that whatever you want from your holiday, Barrhead can provide it.

And all this is set against on-screen messages about a massive sale, low deposits, spreading the cost and free kids’ places – all great calls to action.

It’s simple and powerful, and just what you want from your TV advertisement.

Icelolly.com: ‘Get your holiday licked with Icelolly.com’


From a marketing perspective, it could be argued that being a price comparison website can be a tougher job than most. As principally a website, you are one‑dimensional in so far as you have no physical presence, and your users are likely to be more fickle than most.

But just as Go.Compare and Comparethemarket have carved out personalities for their brands, so Icelolly.com is seeking to do the same in the travel sector – and this year’s peaks advertising campaign is a good effort in this direction.

Vaguely resembling a sort of Wallace and Gromit scenario, the advert brilliantly plays heavily on the two things the brand needs to get across in 30 seconds: what it does and who it is. With dozens of ice cream vans on a beach, and their number being added to all the time, the narration outlines the difficulty of making a purchase when presented with so much choice from so many sources. It then presents the solution: one ice cream van where all the brands are featured in one place and where easy comparisons can be made.

The play on buying an ice lolly on a beach and the strapline of “Get your holiday licked with Icelolly.com” is a classic in brand connection – what the brand does with what the consumer wants. It’s a strong, memorable advert that accomplishes its mission powerfully.

On The Beach: ‘It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year’


One of the biggest challenges facing a travel brand marketing department is how to make the marketing budget stretch further. And one of the biggest annual debates among travel marketers revolves around recycling existing marketing assets such as previous advertisements.

On the Beach decided to recycle its now familiar “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” advertisement to kick off its 2023 marketing campaign. And who can blame the online travel agency for recycling the advertisement as, just like Coca‑Cola’s aforementioned Christmas TV adverts, it works well at this time of year and it certainly hasn’t aged.

For people sitting at home and fed up with what 2022 had to offer and the doom and gloom predicted for 2023, the vibrancy, colour, music and call to action of the On the Beach advertisement is enough to make you throw caution to the wind and book a holiday.

Cunard: ‘Cunard The Fine Line’


It seemed that Cunard had even more presence on our TV screens over the festive break with its “Cunard The Fine Line” advert, after the brand had run other adverts in the series on television in the months prior to Christmas.

Long associated with the more stylish and classic end of cruising, the “Cunard The Fine Line” advert plays to all the high points associated with such an iconic brand.

The 30-second advert, set to a haunting piano music bed and with clips of dolphins, banqueting rooms and lovers gazing into the sky, invites us “to dream of love, banquets, journeys and music beyond all belief and then, once you have done all that, forget that you were dreaming”.

The advert, while portraying the features and quality of the Cunard brand, would be a pretty standard offering if not for the one thing that absolutely sets it apart – the incredible voice of the narrator, British philosopher, writer and speaker Alan Watts. For consumers who have never cruised, I doubt it would convert them. For Cunard fans the advert must be food for the soul. Would it get me to book? Actually, it did. But I love cruising!

Secret Escapes: ‘Regrets’


In a crowded market, with lots of brands making similar claims, and where the attention span of the audience is short, it is vital that a brand gets its unique selling proposition across as succinctly and powerfully as possible.

And in just 20 seconds, luxury travel deals brand Secret Escapes does that with its series of “Regrets” TV advertisements.

The three lighthearted adverts in the campaign, which aired for the first time on Christmas Day, feature couples enjoying a holiday in typically upmarket surroundings before they realise that other couples close by, by using Secret Escapes, had paid 50% less than them and that the sacrifices they had made to enjoy the resort didn’t have to be made.

The adverts are bright, whimsical and get the Secret Escapes branding and messaging across in an engaging way and in a tight time frame – no small feat.

MoreITV and Travel Weekly matched marketing fund increased to £1m

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